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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Tomatoes, Cilantro, Jalapeño Peppers, Serrano Peppers, Scallions and Bulb Onions Now Being Investigation in Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak РNearly 1,000 Sickened

According to CNN, “starting Monday, health inspectors will halt the shipment of ingredients common to Mexican cuisine from Mexico to the United States” – this will include cilantro, jalapeno peppers, Serrano peppers, scallions and bulb onions. I assume that it may still include tomatoes?

As for illnesses, the CDC reports that 943 persons infected with Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. Nearly 150 have been hospitalized. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (2 persons), Arkansas (10), Arizona (45), California (8), Colorado (12), Connecticut (4), Florida (2), Georgia (24), Idaho (4), Illinois (93), Indiana (14), Iowa (2), Kansas (17), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Maine (1), Maryland (29), Massachusetts (22), Michigan (7), Minnesota (8), Missouri (12), New Hampshire (4), Nevada (11), New Jersey (9), New Mexico (98), New York (28), North Carolina (10), Ohio (7), Oklahoma (23), Oregon (10), Pennsylvania (8), Rhode Island (3), South Carolina (1), Tennessee (8), Texas (356), Utah (2), Virginia (29), Vermont (2), Washington (4), Wisconsin (10), and the District of Columbia (1). One ill person is reported from Ontario, Canada. 

According to the CDC, for every one person who is a stool-culture positive victim of salmonella in the United States, there a multiple of 38.5 who are also sick, but remain uncounted.  (See, AC Voetsch, “FoodNet estimate of the burden of illness caused by nontyphoidal salmonella infections in the United States,”Clinical Infectious Diseases 2004;38 (Suppl 3):S127-34).  That means that we are close to poisoning 38,000 people and we do not even know the vector. 

The fresh vegetable industry has been beating up on the CDC and FDA in recent days for picking tomatoes as the likely vector – some even ignoring the ill people and asking for government handouts to tomato growers.  So, why did the CDC and FDA pick tomatoes?  Well, according to the FDA,  during the past decade, the consumption of fresh and fresh-cut tomatoes has been linked to at least 12 different outbreaks of foodborne illness (most salmonella) in the United States. Those outbreaks include 1,840 confirmed cases of illness. The majority of these outbreaks have been traced to products from Florida and the eastern shore of Virginia; however, tomato-associated outbreaks also have been traced to tomatoes from California, Georgia, Ohio, and South Carolina.  Some examples:

In 1990, a reported 174 salmonella javiana illnesses were linked to raw tomatoes as part of a four-state outbreak. In 1993, 84 reported cases of salmonella montevideo were part of a three-state outbreak. In January 1999, salmonella baildon was recovered from 86 infected persons in eight states. In July 2002, an outbreak of salmonella javiana occurred associated with attendance at the 2002 U.S. Transplant Games held in Orlando, Florida during late June of that year. Ultimately, the outbreak investigation identified 141 ill persons in 32 states who attended the games. All were linked to consumption of raw tomatoes.

During August and September 2002, a salmonella newport outbreak affected the East Coast. Ultimately, over 404 confirmed cases were identified in over 22 states. Epidemiological analysis indicated that tomatoes were the most likely vehicle, and were traced back to the same tomato packing facility in the mid-Atlantic region.

In early July 2004, as many as 564 confirmed cases of salmonellosis associated with consumption of contaminated tomatoes purchased at Sheetz Convenience Store were reported in five states: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia. Seventy percent were associated with tomatoes in food prepared at Sheetz convenience stores.

In 2006 two outbreaks of salmonella-tainted tomatoes where reported by the FDA. One was blamed for nearly 100 illnesses in 19 states. FDA also traced tomatoes involved in another outbreak involving 183 people in 21 states. For more information on Salmonella visit www.about-salmonella.com and www.salmonellalitigation.com.

On the other hand I could not find a Jalapeno outbreak tied to salmonella at all and only two possibly linked to Hepatitis A and Norovirus.  Heck,  at Virginia Tech researchers found that "Hot pepper oil may prevent salmonella in poultry."  Cilantro too, well, in fact studies have shown that salsa kills salmonella?  Researchers thought they had identified a compound in cilantro, a key flavor component of salsa and a variety of other dishes, that kills harmful salmonella bacteria and shows promise as a safe, natural food additive that could help prevent foodborne illness, according to a joint study by U.S. and Mexican researchers. 

  • Corey

    Interesting, I read years a go in a cooking magazine that Jalapeno actually kills food borne illness (including Salmonella) and have been rescued more than once by eating….after eating out. What is this government up to now? Taking away another cure to sell drugs?